IceWhale, the company behind the ZimaBoard, is gearing up for its upcoming product line: the ZimaCube. This is more ambitious than the ZimaBoard launch as it enters the network-attached storage (NAS) market with two models, the entry-level Cube and the more robust Cube Pro. Like the ZimaBoard, these run on Intel technology but offer significantly more power and expansion options. This includes multiple M.2 slots, plenty of USB ports, two PCIe slots, and more.
If you love your Raspberry Pi or other single-board computers (SBC), you certainly know that the space has opened up a lot in recent years. There are many alternatives, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, but the supportive Raspberry Pi community has long been a big selling point for the original. IceWhale Technology, a relative newcomer, entered the scene in 2021 with its ZimaBoard Kickstarter, which offered a unique look and an in-house, open-source operating system. This company and its product may have flown under some radars, but they are back with another passion project for home servers. We do remind you, though, that this is a Kickstarter campaign, so you do assume all of the normal risks of backing the project with your own money.
|Pre-installed OS||CasaOS (Debian)||CasaOS (Debian)||CasaOS (Debian)|
|CPU||Intel Celeron N3350||Intel Celeron N3450||Intel Celeron N3450|
|eMMC 5.1 Storage||32GB||32GB||32GB|
|HDD/SSD SATA Ports||2x6Gb/s||2x6Gb/s||2x6Gb/s|
|USB||2xUSB 3.0||2xUSB 3.0||2xUSB 3.0|
|PCIe||Single x4 PCIe 2.0||Single x4 PCIe 2.0||Single x4 PCIe 2.0|
|Display Out||1xMini-DisplayPort 1.2 (4K/60Hz)||1xMini-DisplayPort 1.2 (4K/60Hz)||1xMini-DisplayPort 1.2 (4K/60Hz)|
|Power||DC 12V (5.5x2.5mm), 6W||DC 12V (5.5x2.5mm), 6W||DC 12V (5.5x2.5mm), 6W|
|Virtualization||VT-d, VT-x||VT-d, VT-x||VT-d, VT-x|
|Decoding||H.264 (AVC), H.265 (HEVC), MPEG-2, VC-1||H.264 (AVC), H.265 (HEVC), MPEG-2, VC-1||H.264 (AVC), H.265 (HEVC), MPEG-2, VC-1|
CasaOS, which is to be renamed ZimaOS, is the OS originally designed for the ZimaBoard. It’s based on the user-friendly Debian, a Linux architecture OS from which the popular Ubuntu is derived. The Raspberry Pi OS, previously known as Raspbian, is also based on Debian, which has wide support. IceWhale continues to update its OS with a heavy focus on the Docker ecosystem, which provides an easy way to create and manage your own personal cloud. This makes the ZimaBoard a cool product for developers and tinkers, but the recent launch of the Raspberry Pi 5 puts downward pressure on its pricing given the inevitable hardware comparisons. Still, the ZimaBoard does retain its unique look and it is x86- rather than ARM-based.
The original Kickstarter campaign was quite successful, raising almost 50 times its original stated goal, but the company is not resting on its laurels. It intends to begin its next Kickstarter event later this month, around the 3rd of November, for its upcoming product line: the ZimaCube. This is more ambitious than the ZimaBoard launch as it seeks to enter into the competitive network-attached storage (NAS) market with two models, the entry-level Cube and the more robust Cube Pro. Like the ZimaBoard, these run on Intel technology, but offer significantly more power and expansion options. This includes multiple M.2 slots, plenty of USB ports, two PCIe slots, and more.
Of course, while M.2 SSDs are great, the real storage heavy lifting continues to come from capacious hard drives. Both models of the ZimaCube have six SATA ports with slots that can accommodate either 2.5” and 3.5” HDDs in addition to 2.5” SATA SSDs. The Cube, which could be priced in the $500+ range but will have an Early Bird discount, is perfect for those interested in getting into and learning about personal cloud technology. The Cube Pro, at up to $1500, takes this storage to another level with dual Thunderbolt 4, dual x4 PCIe 4.0, quad 2.5GbE, and a powerful i5 CPU, although it’s using the same cubic form factor with a convenient, drop-down HDD bay access plate.
|Early Bird Price||$300||$800|
|Provided OS||CasaOS (Debian)||CasaOS (Debian)|
|CPU||Intel N100||Intel i5-1235U|
|Memory (RAM)||1xSO-DIMM up to 16GB (DDR3 3200 MT/s)||1xSO-DIMM up to 32G (DDR5 4800 MT/s)|
|HDD/SSD SATA Ports||6x6Gb/s (2.5" or 3.5")||6x6Gb/s (2.5" or 3.5")|
|SSD M.2 Slots||2xM.2 2280 (NVMe) on-board, 4x off-board||2xM.2 2280 (NVMe) on-board, 4x off-board|
|USB (Front)||2xUSB-A 3.0, 1xUSB-C 3.2||2xUSB-A 3.0, 1xThunderbolt 4|
|USB (Rear)||2xUSB-A 3.0, 2xUSB-A 2.0||4xUSB-A 3.0, 1xThunderbolt 4|
|Display Out||1xDP 1.4, 1xHDMI 2.0||1xDP 1.4, 1xHDMI 2.0|
|PCIe Slots||Two x1 PCIe 3.0, one M.2 WiFi||Two x4 PCIe 4.0, one M.2 WiFi|
|Power||DC 19V||DC 19V|
|Security||On-board TPM||On-board TPM|
|Audio||3.5mm headphone jack||3.5mm headphone jack|
|PCIe Support||10G/25G/40G/100G optical network card||10G/25G/40G/100G optical network card|
|M.2 NVMe expansion card||M.2 NVMe expansion card|
|Codec card||Codec card|
|IPMI expansion card||IPMI expansion card|
|Dimensions||240mm x 221mm x 220mm||240mm x 221mm x 220mm|
Regardless of what model you choose, you’re not tied to the beginner-friendly ZimaOS. The hardware supports Linux, Windows, OpenWRT, pfsense/opnsense, Android, and more. Various forms of RAID are supported and you can also use Unraid or TrueNAS. The stock hardware is quite compatible but you can add your own, and there is also an official ZimaBoard Store for expansion accessories. This is a flexible system that can do a variety of tasks simultaneously, as shown with the live ZimaOS demo on its website, with enough ports to allow for a lot of customization. We do recommend ZimaOS for beginners who want to dip into this scene with the base Cube model.
The company compares the upcoming ZimaCube models favorably to Synology’s DS1621+ and QNAP’s TS-653D-4G-US, which are within the expected price range of the Cube Pro. It’s certainly worth shopping around to get the best fit for your NAS or homelab needs. If you have been waiting to jump into the fray or upgrade what you have, it’s probably worth paying attention to the upcoming Kickstarter campaign, which will have more information on the Cube and Cube Pro.
Recently we reviewed the ZimaBlade, a Walkman-esque device that crams an Intel SBC and up to 16GB of RAM for personal cloud storage.
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Shane Downing is a Freelance Reviewer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering consumer storage hardware.
While both prices seem really good that $300 is exceptional for something with 6 drive support on a modern platform. I recently built a new server box, but if I hadn't this would be something I'd jump on immediately. You may not get the software support of a QNAP/Synology, but it's also not a specific attack vector either.Reply
specs correction: the N100 is DDR4 and their website shows 2x DDR5 SODIMM capability for the pro model
$300 for the n100 is a really good price, but $800 for the i5 processor seems a little steep.Reply